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Wednesday 13 November 2013

The Word Must Be Typed: Australians and their Typewriters at War

Since the conflict in the Sudan in 1885, Australian journalists have been with Australian troops in war. From at least Gallipoli in 1915, they used typewriters to keep Australians informed of what was happening to their troops on distant battlegrounds.
Cave newspaper
In Tobruk, Libya, in 1941, Australian Army Private W.D.Woods types copy for Mud and Blood,  official newspaper of the 2/23rd Infantry Battalion. 
Bombed newsroom
Also in Tobruk in 1941, Lance-Sergeant W.H.Williams, having listened to the BBC Overseas News Service on his radio, and typed up the news, runs off copies of the Dinkum Oil newspaper. 
At the Malaguna Mission in New Britain in 1945, war correspondents report a beach landing on the first day of the occupation of Rabaul by troops of the 4th Infantry Brigade. From left, Frank Curtis, Eric Thornton and Merv Warren at their portables.

Papuans at Kiriwina in the Trobriand Islands make use of the Royal Australian Air Force No 79 (Spitfire) Squadron's Orderly Room Remington typewriter in November 1943.
On Noemfoor Island, Dutch New Guinea, in 1944, war correspondents G. B. Graham and G. Holland work in a trench following the Allied landing.
At a rubber plantation in Kokoda, New Guinea, in 1942, Tom Fairhall of the Sydney Daily Telegraph covers the Buna campaign.
War correspondent Jim O'Connor of the Melbourne Argus at Henry Reid Bay, New Britain, March 1945. Below, O'Connor shoulders a heavy load of bags and carries his Underwood:
At Watten in Queensland in 1942, Major Swift writes a report at the 2/2nd Australian General Hospital.
In Labuan, North Borneo, in 1946, members of the No 81 Fighter Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force load gear for their trip to occupy Japan while Flight Lieutenant John T.Harrison types a report:
In Sicily, Italy, in 1943, journalist W. K. Robertson and photographer Laurie LeGuay.
In Malin, New Guinea, in 1945, Corporal J.G.Saw and Sergeant G.H.Lewis in their 2/8th Infantry Battalion "orderly room".
At Cape Wom, Wewak area, New Guinea, in August 1945, Red Cross worker Betty Bown, of Seacliffe, South Australia, uses a Corona 3 at the 104 Casualty Clearing Station Hospital:

This is the Hermes Baby portable typewriter which belonged to Lieutenant Colonel John Linton Treloar
Born in Melbourne in  December 1894, Treloar enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914 and took a small typewriter (not this one) ashore at Gallipoli in April 1915. He later joined the No 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. In May 1917 he began the work that would dominate the rest of his life when he was selected to organise the fledgling Australian War Records Section. The section's work would form the basis of much of the Australian War Memorial's collection. Treloar became the institution's director in 1920, working tirelessly for the more than three decades and living next to his office. The Memorial took over the publication and distribution of the 12-volume official history of Australia in the First World War. During the Second World War Treloar was made head of the Department of Information. He took charge of the Military History Section at Army Headquarters and began the process of establishing a collection of Second World War relics and documents. He died in January 1952.
At Labuan Island, Borneo, in June 1945, war correspondent Alan Dawes of the Melbourne Herald covers the landing.
At Balikpapan, Borneo, in 1945, war correspondent Rupert Charlett of the Melbourne Argus types the story of the 7th Division Landing during Operation Oboe 2.
At Kokoda, New Guinea, in January 1944, war correspondent Geoff Reading of the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
War correspondents in New Guinea in January 1944 - from left, J. R. Scarlett (Sydney Morning Herald), Ralph Treatsorth (United Press), and Arthur Veysey (Chicago Tribune) write their first stories in the jungle for dispatch from Saidor after the successful landing by US forces. 
At Ravenshoe, Queensland, in 1945 Corporal R. Pleass of the HQ 9 Familiarity History Field Team types a report.
At Jimpangah, North Borneo, in 1945, Signalman P.G.Collins of the 24th Brigade holds a typing class in a railway carriage set up by the 2/43rd Battalion on a siding of the Beaufort to Tenom line.
At Kiligia, New Guinea, in 1944, journalists Thomas Farrell (above) and Paul Becker (below). 
Below, after the Aitape landing in north-east New Guinea in 1944, war correspondents, 'Doc' Quigg of United Press, F.Schaefer (Acme), and Harry Summers (Sydney Morning Herald). 
In North Korea in January 1951, Australian war correspondents Harry Gordon (Melbourne Sun News -Pictorial) and Ronald Monson (Sydney Daily Telegraph) work at a table outdoors in the cold. Gordon, for many years the official Australian Olympic Committee historian, these days lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland and still has his Korean War-issue Hermes Baby portable typewriter. Gordon was close to Captain Reg Saunders, the first Aboriginal officer to serve in the Australian armed services, and later wrote a book about Saunders' life, The Embarrassing Australian. 
This 1942 recruitment poster by James Northfield was for the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force.
At Militat, New Guinea, in 1944, military historian J.S.Cleary types a dispatch.
In Sicily in 1943, South Australian journalist W. K. Robertson interviews Flying Officer D. M. Davidson of Sydney and Flying Officer MacKay of Durban, South Africa, before an operation over Messina. 
In Pompom Valley, New Guinea, in 1943, Staff Sergeant E. C. Dunn writes a script for a 7th Australian Division concert.
This Royal Standard 5 typewriter (
serial number is 124214- 5), held by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, must have one of the most amazing stories of any typewriter ever made.
It was used by both Major General William Holmes CMG, DSO, VD and Brigadier General Evan Alexander Wisdom CB, CMG, DSO, VD. Holmes was the initial owner of the typewriter, purchasing it for his personal use before the outbreak of the First World War. When he was appointed to raise and command the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force in August 1914, he took the typewriter for use in administrative tasks. The typewriter was used throughout Holmes' tenure as the officer in charge of the Rabaul garrison and was taken with him when the initial force returned to Sydney in early 1915. Holmes then took his typewriter to his next command, 5 Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, of which Wisdom was brigade major. The typewriter travelled from Australia to Egypt with Wisdom, where it was again put to work. The typewriter continued to be used on Gallipoli and after the evacuation it was taken back to Egypt. Wisdom took command of 18 Battalion in February 1916 and when his battalion moved to Ismailia the typewriter was taken there as well. It was carried by a donkey. The typewriter was then taken to France with 18 Battalion and was used into 1916, when it was replaced by a newer typewriter. However, Wisdom kept this typewriter as Holmes had given it to him as a souvenir. Holmes himself died of shell wounds in 1917. Following the end of the First World War, Wisdom remained in England, where once again he used the typewriter to assist him in his administrative duties. He returned to Australia at the end of 1919 and became administrator of the mandated territory of New Guinea. He took up his post in March 1921 and he took the typewriter with him, returning it to the place where its military service had begun in 1914. He remained in Rabaul until late 1931. Wisdom died in Melbourne in December 1945.
This Corona Four typewriter was used by Captain Murray Barnett Tindale during the Second World War and afterwards, during the occupation of Japan. It was used during the war crimes trials and for intelligence operations, interrogation of suspected and known Japanese war criminals and interpreting duties for the 2nd Australian War Crimes Section, the Allied Translators and Interrogation Section and British Commonwealth Occupation Forces.  The Corona Four's serial number is 2K13979 (1926). Tindale was born in Perth in 1902 and his family lived in Japan from 1907 to 1915. His father worked as an accountant at the Salvation Army mission. In 1948 Murray was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom on the order of President Harry S.  Truman for his work with US forces in the liberation of the Philippines in 1944 and 1945.
This Remington portable typewriter was used by Asher Alexander Joel, born Stanmore, New South Wales, in 1912.
Sir Asher Joel
 Joel left school at 14, beginning his career in journalism with The Daily Telegraph (1927-1931) and the Labour Daily (1931-1937). In World War II, Joel joined the Royal Australian Navy and was RAN Liaison Officer on the staff of Admiral Kincaid, Commander of the United States Seventh Fleet, and transferred to the staff of General MacArthur's headquarters, South-West Pacific Area. Joel remained with US Armed Forces from Hollandia through to the invasion of the Philippines, using this typewriter throughout this period. He recalled typing up the first details of the Australian fleet involvement in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf. The Americans awarded Joel the Bronze Star. Joel later entered NSW state politics. He was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1956, made a Knight Bachelor in 1971 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1974. He died in 1998.

This Royal portable typewriter is unusual in that it has the Japanese yen symbol at lower right. Its serial number is P499. After World War II, it came into the possession of Thomas 'Tom' Robert Howie, born Brighton, England, in 1919, later a resident of Burnside, South Australia. Howie enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1941. His former ship, the Nizam, provided a landing force when, on 20 August, 1945, the USS Sims moved into Tokyo Harbour. Among this landing team were two good friends of Tom Howie's: Able Seamen Cliff Howard and Bob Skinner. They searched and cleared Yokasuka Naval Base and in the process souvenired this Royal typewriter from an office. It is claimed it was used to type the Surrender Instrument, although this remains unsubstantiated. Upon their return to Australia, Howard gave the typewriter to Howie as a souvenir and as compensation for missing the Surrender Ceremony. Howie become Commissioner of the South Australian Police Force. He used the typewriter throughout his career. His wife Kathleen embroidered a cover for it using his initials. The typewriter ribbon tins above also belonged to Howie.

Bill Smith
The photo of Alan Dawes above also included Bill Smith. Unfortunately Smith was killed at Balikpapan by machine gun fire. It was decided to replace Smith with Harry Reidy (below), who would write the "Bill Smith's Diary" radio show - with Reidy using Smith's typewriter!
At Kuching, Sarawak, in December 1945, a Japanese guard delivered a fowl to Mrs Iva Penlington, of Yorkshire, England, who had been an internee of the Japanese. The fowl was payment by the Japanese for the use of Mrs Penlington's typewriter during two years of occupation!:
Many women in such internment camps produced their own newspapers, with the use of typewriters. Typewriters were much in demand. In his book Australia under Nippon, Hank Nelson put forward the argument that “looting, or scrounging as the prisoners called it, was essential to survival, and the stories of triumphant looting sustained morale”. Prisoner-of-war diaries are filled with stories about men smuggling pineapples into the camp in their G-strings, or cans of condensed milk in their slouch hats. One even swore that he had seen a man smuggle a typewriter out of Changi prison. These stories of fooling the officers and camp guards helped morale in Changi greatly. 
In Kure, Japan, in 1949, Services Investigating Bureau circulated to Japanese police a copy of the above photograph of an Underwood typewriter, which was stolen from one of its units.
In Cairo in 1942, three members of the South African Women's Auxiliary Air Force work on their typewriters.
A Remington portable in an office's tent in Korea.
Cadet midshipmen attending a telegraph typewriting class at Flinders Naval Depot, Royal Australian Navy. Note the bibs they are wearing to hide the keys while learning to type.
In Port Moresby, New Guinea: The room used by Padre P. Sands, the first Royal Australian Air Force chaplain in war-time New Guinea, who obtained and furnished a recreation hut. 
Among other Australian War Memorial items relating to typewriters is television news footage of the 
discovery by Australian troops in 1968 of a Viet Cong base camp in thick rain forest in the far north-east of Phuoc Tuy Province, about 15 miles from Nui Dat. Among the items found was a typewriter - a Hermes Ambassador in the middle of the jungle! How such a heavy machine got there is anyone's guess.
There is downloadable film here of an Australian soldier typing in the jungle in February 1944 during a 2/2 Australian Cavalry Commando Squadron stop at an isolated village called Faita in Papua New Guinea. The typewriting editor of Faita Fiblets Sergeant A. Dixon.


Ted said...

Fantastic bits of Australian military typewriter history! Thanks (:

Richard P said...

This is an amazing collection of photos and stories. It's thrilling to see people and typewriters working hard under life-and-death conditions.

"Mud and Blood" is a perfect name for a frontline newspaper!

Anonymous said...

Robert, another tremendous collection.

What struck me from your photos was how small the portables were in the early 40s. Whereas the bakelite, canvas and electronics of that period would later give way to significantly improved replacements, there wasn't much tweaking of the typewriter for the next 40 years.

Miguel Chávez said...

A very interesting post as always, thank you!

I feel the utmost respect to the men (and women!) who risked (and still do) life and limb to follow the troops to report the events of war. It is one of the most dangerous of jobs, and yet, if there's something all these photos have in common is that the journalists typing their reports and stories seem to be completely calmed, focused on their job, absolutely not worried by the events around them. Perhaps the photos were taken during a moment of calm, when the battle was over, but still I don't think I'd be able to keep my composure like them.

I have a little Hermes Baby like Lieutenant Colonel Treloar's! It's a very ingenious machine. I'll have to take it out for a spin one of these days.

TonysVision said...

Once again one of your posts has set me off on an enjoyable bit of interesting research, this time the battle of Gallipoli, and the mixed vision of its significance in Australian history as commemorated by Anzac Day.

Spiderwebz said...

Thanks for this amazing write-up of people and their typewriters during the war. Great research Robert!

Erik said...

I absolutely loved this post Robert. It's great to see the machines I'm so fond of being used to make a real difference in the world.

Heather Thoday said...

As Frank Curtis's grand-neice, I know that he would have been so happy to be included in this celebration of correspondents' contribution to history. Thankyou. Heather Thoday